Sunday, November 11, 2012

2012 Baja Haha Trip was Awesome!

The Baja Haha is in its 19th year and this is my 3rd trip in a row down the coast. Last year the boat I was on ran into bad weather and could not make the starting line. I flew from San Francisco to San Diego anyway and at the last minute found another boat and had an amazing adventure with three other guys on a 57' steel cutter. The year before I joined a catamaran from my marina and joined the boat in SD for an amazing and fast trip down the coast with a skipper who did everything by the book. Learned a lot and had a great trip.

I was looking forward to this years adventure with the crew of Odyssey. Ken and Danita choose me and my friend John to help the bring the boat from San Diego to Cabo. They had some boat issues that delayed their departure and for the second year in a row, the boat did not make it down. I convinced John that we should go anyway and try to jump on a boat. He agreed and off to San Diego we went. We arrived on Friday for our Monday departure. As soon as we arrived, we started knocking on hulls and asking if any crew positions were available. No luck on Friday, so we would start again on Saturday and hit the main marina looking for haha boats.

There are 150 boats signed up for this years 750 mile journey from SD to Cabo. There must be an opening somewhere. On Saturday, we rented bikes and headed off to Cabrillo Marina about 2 miles away. We arrived and could see about 25 Baja Haha burgees flying in the marina. This was our chance. We worked the docks and met many of the skippers and crew. No one had any space. If they were not around, we left a note with our contact info. We had hit all the docks and were on our last boat when we met Andy and Kate. They were traveling to Pamama on their 43 Young Sun cutter. They have a 16 month old boy on board as well. They were happy to have us join them and help them get the boat down the coast. They were just getting ready to depart for Seaworld and asked us to join them in the evening to discuss the trip. We did and all looked good at our meeting. I told them John and I would assist them in provisioning the boat, do the cooking, clean the dishes and stand watch. I showed them the menus I had prepared and they were very happy. We would meet Sunday night after dinner and we would help prepare the boat for the next mornings departure. We arrived, stowed our gear and did a few chores. We had provisioned and stored the food earlier in the day. At midnight, we hit the hay and as I have discovered with older boats, the sleeping cushions are very uncomfortable. Luckily I had brought a thermarest and that helped.

Up at 7 for more preparations and we are off the dock at 9:30 for the parade to the starting line. There is a fire boat shooting water, cannons firing and the whole fleet heading into the Pacific. It's a beautiful morning and there is a breeze of 8-10 knots. We hit the starting line and head south. The boat is from 1984 and she is a 20 ton cruiser. Andy and his wife have traveled from Seattle to join the rally. They have been on the water for a month of their six month cruise. After the Panama Canal, they will ship the boat back up north. I am amazed at how well they work together and make this trip work. Kate is awesome and works very hard tending to her boy Nathan and he is amazing as well.

We head past the Coronado Islands and raise the spinnaker, main and stay sail. We are having a wonderful ride with about 2300 square feet of canvas up. I prepare breakfast of eggs and fruit and we are enjoying the breeze and 5.5 knots on the speedo. We set up a watch schedule of 3 hours each so that means 9 hours between watches. Great. Same as last year. I have the 3-6 watch in both the am and the pm. My watch comes up and it is delightful. The self steering is doing the work and I get to watch for other boats and adjust our position from time to time. I do that by pushing the buttons and not the wheel. We have lots of confidence in our skipper as he is a rocket scientist for Boeing. He is also an accomplished sailor and instructor. I hope to learn a few things from him along the way. During my watch, I head down to the galley to prepare dinner of pasta and salad. We have a sunset dinner in the cockpit with a glass of wine. My back is to the sun and we miss the green flash! Hope there will be more. After dinner, I head down to my bunk to rest and get ready for my next watch. At 0245, I am up and preparing for my full moon watch. I take over from Kate and have a very nice time on deck. The boat is moving well and the stars are shinning. The only problem is we are in a bit of a fog bank. We have radar and AIS which shows us where other boats are. I can see the moon but not much ahead. I check the radar every 15 mins. We are looking good. About 0430, the fog clears and we are fine. At 0600, John comes up and I head for the bunk. We have another beautiful day and the wind is building. It's up to about 15 and we are moving. I take a nap after lunch and then up for my watch. We have speakers in the cockpit which is great. My iPod is filled 17500 songs so we have plenty of variety. My watch goes fast and soon I am preparing a nice meal of chicken, veggies and rice. After dinner, I join John during his watch and we are cruising effortlessly at 6 knots with the moon shimmering on the water. It's a beautiful moment. I head to bed shortly after.

Up for my 0300 watch and it is lumpy and rough. We have the jib up and are hand steering. It's a long 3 hours but also fun. Several boats nearby and I am trying to keep the boat on our heading but with the wind direction it is tough. As John comes up at 0600, we prepare to gybe. Success. I head down for more sleep. I awake at 0730 to a bunch of commotion. We have two tuna on the line. I head up on deck but everything is taken care of. I head back down for a bit more sleep as last night was one of the roughest I have ever had on a boat. The boat was rocking so bad in the cross swells that we had to pull up the lee cloths. These stop you from rolling out of your bunk. I wake at 1000 and am bit groggy. The tuna is being prepared and in a short time we have fresh tuna sandwiches. Delicious. After lunch, we all spend time in the cockpit talking about all sorts of subjects. Nathan is active and walking around the boat. He is tethered in and very safe. After a few hours, I head down and take a much needed nap. Up for my watch and we are approaching the finish line of leg one. The skipper prepares a wonderful tuna over pasta dinner and we have a feast listening to Dire Strats. After a cool sunset on Halloween night, I head down to get some more rest. One note on the sunset, as it hit the horizon behind some clouds, it actually looked like a big scarey pumpkin setting over the ocean. We hope to arrive in Turtle Bay at sunrise.

We arrived at Turtle bay at 0530 and promptly went back to bed. Up about 0830 and had an oatmeal breakfast. Lots of chores were accomplished and soon we were on a panga to the fishing village. This is a dirt road town of about 2500 folks. Dusty does not really describe how this town looks. No yards, just dust. We walked down the beach to a restaurant overlooking the bay and had lunch with some fellow cruisers. One of the gentleman at our table was the famous bay area charter skipper known as Captain Kirk. He asked which boat we were from. Second Sun. He said he knew the boat from an incident at Point Conception. A boat had lost her engine and asked for a tow. Second Sun came to the rescue. During the tow, Sun lost her engine as well and Witch Doctor hit her causing damage to Suns stern. He said he had heard that Doctor attempted the rounding two more times and had to be rescued two more times. Boneheads! We headed over to the annual rally softball game. Lots of fun and laughter ensued as the game is just for fun. Then it was off to dinner with some new friends and the crew from Sun. Back to the boat and after two nights of little sleep, we drifted off quickly.

Friday we headed to the beach party with about 400 of our fellow hahaers. It was an overcast day but still very nice. We set up the vball net and got a beer. Slowly the cruisers show and the pot luck lunch begins. Kate had prepared a delicious apple pie. All sorts of food and tons of fresh fish. One boat had caught 48 fish and shared 20 lbs at the party. Saw lots of old friends and made many more, a nice new activity was a talent show. One group did an amazing Maori dance. Another did a song about the haha. All in all, a nice new addition. After the party I joined the Moontide crew and we ended up at the jam session on Exodus. Brand new 40 foot cat with all the amenities. There was about 15 folks and my skipper Andy even showed up. Lots of great tunes and singing. Andy is an excellent musician playing the guitar and fiddle. One of the best nights of all the hahas!!! Up at 0600 to prepare the boat for departure. The winds are light and we have a rolling start. After some tuna sandwiches for lunch, we start to get a 10 knot breeze and the spinnaker and main are up. This leg is about 240 miles to Santa Maria Bay. This my favorite stop on the Haha.

Had a great day with winds near twenty in the afternoon. Beautiful weather and warm all the way till after dinner. We were under spinnaker all day and I saw 7 knots a few times. After a steak and veggie dinner, I hit the hay and watch the sci fi thriller Prometheus. My 0300 watch was sublime. Light winds, no boats around and some blues on the stereo. Saw a great shooting star. Morning is clear and light winds. We are motoring. I am off to prepare breakfast.
Motored a good part of the day. About 4 we raised the chute and we are doing 4.5 right now. Has a nice pasta and Brussels sprout dinner. Also hung my hammock in the boat and took a nice two hour nap. Lovely.

We arrive in Santa Maria at 1400 with a brilliant full sail into the bay. The mouth of the bay is a good 5 miles wide. We sail across most of it. The winds are at 15 and perfect. Finally a beam reach after all the downwind. The boat performs masterfully. We tack and the fleet is in front of us. This is a beautiful stop with no town or infrastructure. Just a few fisherman on the river. We get the hook down and the swimming begins. I swim over to Exodus to thank them for a grat jam session. They offer me a beer and I decline. I was there only to show my gratitude. I swim back, being on the lookout for any motor boats that might not see me. There is the annual party in the evening on Moontide and Talyon. Moontide did not make it last year so the boat I was on hosted this event. We show up promptly at 1900 and the party is in full swing. Meeting lots of cool folks and some with big cruising plans ahead. The party swells to 80 folks and the cat is full. The wind is blowing 30 but it is very warm. I see some old friends and have a great time. At 2230, we head home for some sleep. We stay dry even though the wind is pumping. In the morning, I jump in for a 0630 dip. I come to the surface and the sun is poping up for my first Haha sunrise of the trip and the water is perfect. Pancakes for breakfast and then I go for a long swim around the anchorage and introduce myself to several boats. They love the fact that I am swimming over to say good morning. I head back after an hour or so and prepare to depart for the party. The weather is blue skies and 80 or so. The fisherman and their wives have prepared a meal for the fleet and the band is warming up. We are on a small bluff overlooking the entire bay with the beach below. I grab a bite to eat and say hello to few of the skippers that I met knocking on hulls. The volleyball net arrives and I set it up with assistance from a young guy named Wilson. I head back to the party and say more hellow's. My skipper from last year is there and I buy him a beer. He is crewing on the Patrica Belle. I meet another skipper who just outfitted a boat and he gives me some advice on my pending sail to New Zealand. It's a fantastic party and everyone is in fine spirits. I make my way down to the volleyball game and we lose a best of 3 but I make some new friends and we have a ball. I donated the net to the fleet two years ago and it is still in great shape. We finish off the party and head back to the boat for a quick dinner. We need to get about up at 0530 for a 0700 departure so I am in bed after dinner. This day is also my 19th wedding anniversary so we toast to that.

Up early and off to the starting line. Before everyone is up, I go for a skinny dip and checkout the bioluminescence. It's beautiful. No wind as we motor south for a 170 mile leg to Cabo San Lucas. We motor till about 1630 and then pull up the spinnaker and hit 6.5 knots. It lasts about 2 hours and then we are back to motoring. We did have a nice curry dinner and some white wine. Resting now for my last watch at 0300.

My last watch on Second Sun was a motor sail with a beautiful star filled night. Venus, Jupitar and Sirius loom large. At the western horizon, I see a line of 26 Haha boats. I head to the bow and let the auto pilot do her thing. As I stare into the darkness ahead, I can almost make out the lights of Cabo San Lucas. I think about the three Haha's I have been on and this one may have been my favorite. Great crew, wonderful weather and the fleet has been very kind to me. I have made some new friends and enjoyed some spectacular sailing. Had a couple midnight watches that were the best of my life. I finished off my watch at 0600 and we arrive in Cabo about 1230. Boat chores complete and we wish our Captain and his wife fair winds. Another Haha under my belt. I am so happy I made the trip and that I brought my friend John along for the ride. Thank you Latitude 38 for another successful rally to the Cape!!!!

Gales, Whales and the Baja Ha-Ha by sail444

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